What is the pattern of the Civil Services Examination?

Civil Services Examination is a 3-stage examination held every year.
Stage 1 – Preliminary Test
Stage 2 – Main Exam
Stage 3 – Personality Test / Interview

What is the Preliminary Test?

Stage 1 – Preliminary Test – consists of objective questions with penalty (negative marking) for wrong answers. (This is generally held on 2nd or 3rd Sunday in the month of May)
Paper 1 – General Studies (200 marks) 2 hours
Paper 2 – CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) (200 marks) 2 hours
There is a cut-off in the Preliminary Test which varies every year and is decided by the UPSC.

What is the Main Examination?

The Main Exam (Subjective papers of 1750 marks) consists of 7 papers which are usually held from early October for around 21 days. The current pattern of Main examination is as follows:-
General Studies
Paper I – 250 marks (3 hours)
Paper II – 250 marks (3 hours)
Paper III – 250 marks (3 hours)
Paper IV – 250 marks (3 hours)
Optional Subject 1
Paper 1 – 250 marks (3 hours)
Paper 2 – 250 marks (3 hours)
Essay – 250 marks (3 hours)

English Language 300 marks (qualifying paper; marks not included in Main Exam)
Modern Indian Language 300 marks (qualifying paper; marks not included in Main Exam)
Usually Paper 1 is held from 9 am to 12 pm and Paper 2 is held from 2 pm to 5 pm.

How many hours per day should one devote for the preparation of Civil Services?

If qualitative studies are done for one year, devoting 6 to 8 hours a day for 6 days a week consistently is sufficient .Take a one day break every week and relax yourself .This will rejuvenate your enthusiasm for the next week.

Is it necessary to read 2-3 newspapers along with 2-3 magazines for current affairs?

It is a myth that extensive newspaper reading is essential. Any one national newspaper would suffice. Further civil services specific magazines like Chronicle, Competition Wizard etc. can be subscribed.

How should one start preparing for the civil services exam?

It is always better to start the preparation for mains along with P.T. as we know that the syllabus for mains is much wider than preliminary exam and the time between P.T. and mains is just four months which is not sufficient for preparation. Once Mains is thoroughly prepared, prelims preparation is a matter of few days.

How should I prepare for the Essay exam?

There is no specific preparation for essay exam. After 3-4 months of preparation, you will be in position to write a good essay as you will be sufficiently groomed in various areas. At this time you must start practicing essay writing.

I have applied for the exam but will not be able to appear due to certain problems. Will my attempt be counted?

Your attempt is not counted by mere filling the form. Unless you appear for your first paper of Prelims Test your attempt is not counted.

I have cleared preliminary test but am not able to write mains due to certain reasons, what would happen?

Your attempt is lost. The result of not appearing in mains or not have cleared mains is same. That is, again apply for P.T. next year. So it is better to plan for the entire exam well in advance.

Is a candidate from OBC list of state eligible for age relaxation under UPSC, if he is not from the center’s list of OBC?

NO, under UPSC, he is not eligible for relaxation but under state’s commission exam he will be eligible for relaxation.

Are some optional subjects more scoring than others?

Scoring depends upon the quality of answers. Some subjects like Sociology have a lot of overlapping .Therefore the syllabus can be completed quickly and more time can be devoted to improving the quality of your answer.

What should I keep in mind while choosing an optional subject?

Two things must be kept in mind: 1. Your comfort level with the subject & 2. Kind of guidance and material available It is not mandatory that your optional subject should be from your stream. The most commonly chosen subjects are Sociology, History, Psychology, Geography and Public Administration. If you are too good at your own subject and can easily solve the paper on the same subject asked by UPSC then you should definitely have it as optional subject. But if you are not able to solve then you should switch on to some other subject (preferably from the above mentioned subjects)

While writing answers during Mains, is a high level English required?

Any answer in simple language with all relevant points in it is a good enough answer to score well.

How can a student be sure about the word count in examination hall?

No one can count exact number of words for each answer in the examination hall. Only an estimate of words can be taken. A good estimation can be achieved by a consistent answer writing practice.

It is true that candidates who answer in English get more marks than the one who answered in Hindi?

This is not true at all. An examiner does not give marks upon the language used to answer the question. Marks are given on the basis of the quality of the answer. Content matters not the language

I have completed my studies from an open school/university. Can I appear for civil services?

Yes you can (degree from any recognized university, any stream makes you eligible).

What is the Interview or Personality Test ?

Students who qualify for Interview are called by the UPSC in March or April. The Interviews usually start 2 weeks after the Main Exam results are announced. The duration of Interviews is around 40 days.

When is the Final result declared?

This is computed on the basis of the total marks scored by candidates in Main Examination (1750) and Personality Test or Interview (275). The final result is declared around 10 days prior to the next year�s Preliminary Test.
Final Ranking and Service allocation is based on the combined marks scored in Main Examination (1750) and Interview (275) and on the preferences given by the candidates at the time of filling up of the Main Examination application form.

Eligibility to appear for the Exam ?

Students must be degree holders or graduates (degree recognized by University Grants Commission) to appear for this Examination. Indian students holding a foreign degree need to ensure that their degree is accredited or recognized by UGC.

What is the minimum and maximum age required to appear in the exam?

Candidates belonging to General category and OBC (creamy layer) must have attained the age of 21 on 1st August of the year of the Exam but must not have attained the age of 32on 1st August of the year of the Exam.
Candidates belonging to OBC (non creamy layer) category must have attained the age of 21 on 1st August of the year of the Exam but must not have attained the age of 35 on 1st August of the year of the Exam.
Candidates belonging to SC category must have attained the age of 21 on 1st August of the year of the Exam but must not have attained the age of 37 on 1st August of the year of the Exam.
Candidates belonging to ST category must have attained the age of 21 on 1st August of the year of the Exam but must not have attained the age of 37 on 1st August of the year of the Exam.

What is the number of maximum attempts for different categories?

General category and OBC (creamy layer) category have a maximum of 4 attempts.
OBC (non creamy layer) have a maximum of 7 attempts.
For Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe category candidates there is no limit on the number of attempts till they attain the age of 35 years.
Students belonging to OBC/SC/ST can give the first 4 attempts as General category candidates (if they so desire) and thereafter they can avail the relaxation in the number of attempts by availing the category benefits.

What is the number of vacancies by UPSC every year ?

The number of vacancies reported by Union Public Service Commission varies every year. The number of vacancies per year in the last few years had varied between 700 and 1000.

What is the schedule of the Civil Services exam?

The exact schedule of Main exam varies every year and is usually notified by UPSC on its website www.upsc.gov.in.
To give an idea following is the usual schedule of the Examination:
Notification and Form filling for Preliminary Test – January
Date of Preliminary Test – 2nd or 3rd week of May
Result of Preliminary Test – late-July or early August
Main Examination commencement – October (duration – 21 days)
Declaration of Main Examination results – February or March (next year)
Personality Test or Interview – March and April (next year)
Declaration of Final merit list – Early May (next year)

At which stage one should start preparation?

Ideally one should start preparation at least one year before the preliminary examination.

Is coaching important?

For a beginner, coaching helps to acquire and assimilate basic knowledge fundamentals of the subject comparatively in a short span of time. Secondly, coaching will provide new insights about the way of preparation as well. Thirdly, interaction with fellow candidates will help one to improve his/her social skills as well as help him/her to learn from others.

Does the technical background of a candidate help in qualifying Prelims?

This question arises from the fact that preliminary exam has aptitude paper in which some questions based on logic and reasoning, analytical skills and reasoning ability are asked. Students from mathematics background may find them easier to answer. Given the type and nature of questions asked in the last three years, it can be said that even candidates with social science background can answer them, if they apply their mind as these are basic and fundamental questions, not requiring much mathematical background.

Preparation for Preliminary and Mains – Separate or Integrated?

Civil services preparation is an integral process. Although Preliminary exam is objective and Mains examination is descriptive, one should adopt an integrated approach. Mains preparation requires thorough analysis of information, organizing and presenting information in a coherent and lucid manner. Handling Preliminary exam requires ability to recollect and the concepts of the subject are also tested. So, a candidate should keep these things in mind during the preparation. A candidate should also groom and develop his/her personality with balanced thinking inculcating and nurturing good moral values which will help him/her not only to score good marks in interview but to succeed in his/her career as a civil servant.

How many hours of study are sufficient?

Quality study of five to seven hours for a period of 1 years is sufficient for a candidate of average intelligence to clear the exam provided, he/she adopts right strategy.

Is it necessary for a candidate to go for higher degrees like Post-graduation?

No. A candidate however can still pursue post graduation in certain subjects like Public Administration, Anthropology, Psychology, Development and Extension Studies, etc from open universities like IGNOU while preparing for civil services depending on his/her optional subjects.

How much does a good bio-data matter?

Good bio-data reflects one’s past achievements and projects future potential. However, one should remember that there is always a scope for improvement, even if one does not have good bio-data till his/her graduation. Secondly, there are cases of some candidates with very ordinary academic achievements succeeding in civil services.

Who are at the advantageous position – general graduates or technical graduates?

UPSC favors none, neither technical nor general graduates. It only favors hard working candidates who have positive attitude and balanced personality and who studies with focused and right strategy with determination, dedication and devotion.

Could the civil services questions be answered in the regional languages?

Yes. A candidate can appear in the Mains examination in any of the languages mentioned in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. However, there is one disadvantage for one who want to write the exam in regional language, given the change in syllabus in the Mains examination, it is difficult for a candidate to find the material in a vernacular language and if it is not available, it is burdensome to translate all the material into his/her regional language.

How important is it to face the interview with English as medium of expression?

Though a candidate can choose regional language as medium for the interview, it will be better if he/she has reasonably good command over English to express him/herself properly. Moreover, as interview is a process of interaction, facial expressions, gestures and body language do matter apart from your verbal answers, so it is always better to opt interview in English as no translator will be as good as you to express and present your personality, ideology and character. However, if one is not so good and comfortable in English, he/she can without hesitation opt for regional language in interview as the interview board will always be cordial and helpful and encourage the candidates to express themselves freely.

When should one take his/her first attempt irrespective of the fact how many attempts the candidate has?

An average student requires at least one year preparation before his/her first attempt to succeed in the exam. So irrespective of the number of attempts one has he/she should give his/her attempt after thorough preparation of at least one year.

Can I prepare only for IAS or IPS? Do I need to prepare separately for each?

The exam is common for all civil services. The services are allotted on the basis of rank of a candidate in mains examination and interview and the service preference of the candidate. So an aspirant need not have to prepare separately for each service.

I have a degree but through correspondence courses, can I appear for the exam?.

Yes, you can. The basic qualification required is any degree irrespective of regular, evening college or distance education.

How many hours every day, one need to put in for preparation?

It varies from person to person. But ideally a person needs to spend around 6 hours a day for 6 months.

What is meant by ‘Optional Subjects’?

Every candidate has to choose one optional subjects for the mains exam
from a list of more than 20 subjects offered by UPSC.

Do I need to join any coaching institute?

This is not mandatory, but most of the toppers join a coaching class particularly for General Studies because the syllabus is very vast and cannot be covered by self preparation in 6 months.

I am a working person. I am unable to attend your class. How can I prepare?

The best way to prepare is to attend classes. If you are not able to attend the classes, you can access our study material (Upgrade- 2014) which is updated for 2014.